More than 300,000 UK smokers may have quit due to coronavirus, survey finds

Caroline Allen
Contributor
Smoking makes coronavirus infection worse. (Getty Images)

Up to 300,000 people in the UK may have given up smoking because of the coronavirus pandemic, a survey has found.

Smokers have been urged to quit with the secretary of state for health and social work, Matt Hancock describing it as “abundantly clear” that smoking makes the impact of the coronavirus worse.

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical adviser for the UK, added: “If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.”

It seems that smokers have taken this advice on board with a further 550,000 trying to quit and 2.4 million using this time to cut down, according to a study by YouGov and the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash).

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The survey of just over 1,000 people found that 27% of people are now actively looking to quit as a result of the news that COVID-19 is made worse by smoking.

A quarter of previous smokers also found themselves less likely to relapse after seeing the impact the respiratory infection can have.

Despite this, 4% of people found that being in quarantine has made them consider taking up smoking again, most likely due to the added pressures we’re currently facing.

The #QuitForCOVID Twitter campaign released a joint statement from many of its health and anti-smoking organisations in light of the new data.

“Stopping smoking remains the single biggest thing people can do to improve their overall health,” Dr Charlie Kenward, a GP from Bristol - and also the founder of the #QuitforCOVID campaign - said.

“It will improve heart and lung health as well as reducing the chances of developing cancer and even improve wound healing after surgery. There has never been a better time to quit.”

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“Smoking harms the immune system and our ability to fight off infections. Evidence is growing that smoking is associated with worse outcomes in those admitted to hospital with COVID-19.” Dr Nick Hopkinson, the chairman of Ash who is also a respiratory specialist at Imperial College London, explained.

“Quitting smoking also rapidly reduces people’s risk of other health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Those are bad whenever they happen, so preventing them is an end in itself and is especially important at a time like now when everyone is keen to stay out of hospital.”

Even if smokers are only able to quit temporarily while the pandemic is still going on, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, described it as one of the “best things they could do right now.”